Hatchet: H10

victor crowley hatchet 4 2017

VICTOR CROWLEY

3 Stars  2017/18/80m

A.k.a. Hatchet 4

“Return to his swamp.”

Director/Writer: Adam Green / Cast: Parry Shen, Kane Hodder, Laura Ortiz, Dave Sheridan, Krystal Joy Brown, Felissa Rose, Brian Quinn, Tiffany Shepis, Chase Williamson, Katie Booth, Tyler Mane, Danielle Harris.

Body Count: 16

Laughter Lines: “The guy’s so full of shit, he could open a shit restaurant with… shit.”


The Hatchet series and I aren’t the best of buddies: The first one was so-so, the second one an enjoyable improvement (not least because I was sat just a few feet from the leading cast members and Adam Green where it was screened), and the less said about the third one the better. So, it was with considerable hesitance I approached the ten year anniversary one, a sort of H20 for much-abused Parry Shen, who, with Kane Hodder, is the only cast member to grace all four instalments.

Adam Green always seems to be bursting with enthusiasm whenever I’ve seen him interviewed at various FrightFest thingies, so I’d hate to not like his output. Fortunately, Victor Crowley is quite possibly the best of the series so far. That’s not to say j’adored every single one of the 80 minutes, but it certainly struck the best balance between grue and LOL moments, which give it an endearing appeal. Its three predecessors had it too, but the wit is sharper this time around.

victor crowley 2017 parry shen krystal joy brown hatchet 4

Andrew Yong (Shen) was the only survivor of the Honey Island Swamp massacre of 2007 (his paramedic role in the third one) and has cashed in where possible and written a book about his experiences. Naturally, various conspiracists think he was the killer and that Victor Crowley is just the same old legend it always was. After appearing on the daytime talk show hosted by his bitchy ex-wife Sabrina (Brown), his walking pharmacy publicist Kathleen (the ever-adorbs Felissa Rose) convinces him to say yes to the offer of $1million to fly over the swamp while they film is reaction to returning there.

Anyone who’s seen Jurassic Park III will know what’s going to happen. The plane crashes, killing some of those aboard, and stranding the rest right in the spot where Crowley prowled and, thanks to a young filmmaker, is resurrected after the voodoo curse that brought him back before is inadvertently recited via a YouTube clip on someone’s phone.

victor crowley 2017 felissa rose

The remainder of Victor Crowley is a dilemma flick where those stuck inside the slowly sinking fuselage try to work out their escape route without being on the receiving end of an axe, belt-sander (“somebody actually left a belt-sander out here for ten years!”), or their own hand being inserted up their… well, you’ll see. Each and every contrivance gets its own gag to play off the myriad of convenient turns that most slasher flicks take, showcasing Green’s considerable comic timing as a writer (learned from Holliston, no doubt); the film drips with as many jokes as it does body parts and Green is clearly having a ball attending to each and every facet – though the male nudity to equal out the usual T&A excesses was a choice.

Where to go from here? Given the mid-credits scene, we could well be seeing a fifth film before too long, but how many more horror faces can Green possibly knock off? Here we see Tyler Mane, Tiffany Shepis, and Felissa Rose in peril, joining the ranks of Robert Englund, Tony Todd, Caroline Williams, Zach Galligan, John Carl Buechler, Derek Mears, and Josh Leonard. Coming early to the (probable) wave of reunited scream queens and killers a la Halloween is a smart move – perhaps Tobin Bell, Heather Donahue, and some Saw or Final Destination cast members next time?

victor crowley 2017 laura ortiz kane hodder hatchet 4

Blurbs-of-interest: Parry Shen and Tiffany Shepis were both in Dead Scared; Shepis was also in Basement JackBloody Murder 2Scarecrow, and Home Sick; Dave Sheridan was in Scary Movie; Felissa Rose was Angela in the original Sleepaway Camp and its third sequel, and also was in Camp Dread (with Danielle Harris); Tyler Mane was Michael Myers in both of Rob Zombie’s Halloween films; Danielle Harris was in Halloween‘s 4 and 5, plus both Rob Zombie films, Blood NightChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2See No Evil 2Urban Legend, and was an extra in The Town That Dreaded Sundown; Kane Hodder was Jason in Friday the 13th‘s 7-10, and appears in Children of the Corn VBehind the Mask, and Hack!; Joe Lynch who directed Wrong Turn 2, cameos as one of the pilots (the other is Adam Green).

A Rodent’s Revenge

black rat 2010

BLACK RAT

2.5 Stars  2010/76m

Director: Kenta Fukasaku / Writer: Futoshi Fujita / Cast: Misaki Yonemura, Hiroya Matsumoto, Rina Saito, Haruka Shimizu, Mika Shimizu, Rihoko Shimomiya, Shôta Miyazako, Makoto Sakamoto.

Body Count: 7


Strange little Japanese export starts with a half naked teenage guy staggering and crawling away from a masked loon down a corridor, across broken glass, and eventually finding himself trapped by a locked door. In comes the weapon. Extreme close up for a scream. Credits roll.

‘J-Horror’ reigned supreme throughout the 00s, with films about various cursed objects and places, making a generation afraid of tech, mirrors, and unlabelled video cassettes. Largely inferior American remakes cloned the sub-genre to shit and the freshness of The Ring and The Grudge was melted down into drek like One Missed Call and that cop-out re-do of The Eye (yes, the original was Chinese). Battle Royale, famed for it’s virtually unremakeable plot, fell out of the usual tramlines as it didn’t feature a supernatural element – and neither does Black Rat.

black rat 2010

Through intermittent flashbacks, we learn about the suicide of smiley student Asuka, seven weeks ago (not ten years for once!) Despite well-translated subtitles though, I never really sussed out what the big mystery was: She recruited her six friends to learn a dance for some upcoming festival and made a black rat mask for it, which put off the others (again, not sure why, it looked decent enough). Some hints about boyfriend stealing, unrequited crushes, and general peer disapproval are sprinkled throughout.

The other six ‘Black Rats’ are invited by text “from Asuka” to classroom 3B at midnight – four of them show and encounter a masked girl who uses a flipchart pad to tell them vengeance is about to be served, and when the teen boy from the beginning staggers in and dies, they flee. The school is locked down, so the Black Rat menaces the kids one by one, challenging one to save a goal for his survival, and another to score over 100 points at karaoke…

black rat 2010

Good girl Misato is late and, unlike the others, immediately discerns that the girl in the mask is anyone but the ghost of her best friend, which leads Black Rat to the first of a few twisty revelations. The film has been playing us from the start and, yeah, it’s kinda clever, but it messes with the format to the point where it blurs who is responsible for what in an almost Bay of Blood-style way.

A ghost-free horror film from the Orient is a rarity, but South Korea is still unchallenged when it comes to manufacturing the best slasher pics from the region, but this is worth seeing for a quick peek into the conventions as seen from another cultural perspective.

Hanky Panky

torso 1973TORSO

3.5 Stars  1973/18/93m

“One day she met a man who loved beautiful women… but not all in one piece.”

A.k.a. Carnal ViolenceI Corpi Presentano Tracce Di Violenza Carnale [The Bodies Presented Traces of Carnal Violence]

Director/Writer: Sergio Martino / Writer: Ernesto Gastaldi / Cast: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, John Richardson, Luc Merenda, Roberto Bisacco, Angela Covello, Carla Brait, Conchita Airoldi, Ernesto Colli.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “You’ve got to belong to me and no one else!”


This colourful early giallo features all the wacky hallmarks of a black-gloved killer hunting down beautiful young women who spend much of their screentime as scantily clad as possible.

When a masked loon starts offing female students of Pegulia University’s art class and sawing off limbs, it freaks out American students Jane and Dani, especially when the trail of victims come closer to their group of friends. Could it be possessive ex-boyfriend of Dani’s, Stefano? He stands around and stares intensely a lot.

More so than usual in one of these, all females are impossibly beautiful and more often than not naked, as underscored by a scene where next victim Carol goes to a hippie party at a warehouse where two men fondle her while she gets stoned indifferently, as the camera leers over the bodies of other guests. Do any of the guys disrobe? Not on your life.

torso 1973

After Carol’s murder at the hands of the scarf-wielding killer (strangles first, dismembers after), Dani, Jane, and two other girls take up Dani’s Uncle’s offer to go stay at his country home until the case is solved: The cops know the design of the scarf the killer used, Dani remembers talking to someone who wore it – but who? The vendor knows and attempts to blackmail the killer, but gets mowed down instead.

Arriving at the small village, the women are inspected by the thirsty looking local males, as the camera slowly zooms through the leg of Ursula at the slack-jawed horndogs who live only to objectify them. There are at least three conversations between men about how hot the newcomers are, counting their boobs, legs, etc. One tagline listed for the film is ‘Where whores meet saws’!

torso 1973

No female character in Torso undresses – they strip, usually when someone suspicious is watching. It couldn’t get more objectifying than it does, although curiously more of the onscreen murders are of male characters, with the main three girls each being slain off camera towards the end. What does the killer want or do with the body parts he saws off? It’s never revealed, though flashbacks relate to some sort of broken doll.

The entirely-obvious killer’s motive is as goofy as you’d expect, and the near Kung Fu level fight between loon and male saviour (the surviving girl is, of course, rendered useless) is hilarious and was parodied wonderfully in The Editor. Still, there are some good scenes, with a couple who manage to have sex in a Mini (!) and the killer flicking off the lights as the girl goes to look for her missing boyfriend, and a man (!!) is chased through the village at night after seeing the killer stalking the girls’ residence.

A fun, ridiculous experience.

Blurbs-of-interest: John Richardson was later in Eyeball and Fear.

Art imitating life

jigsaw 2002

JIGSAW

2.5 Stars  2002/18/79m

“Put him together, he will tear you apart.”

Directors/Writers: Don Adams & Harry James Picardi / Cast: Barret Walz, Mia Zifkin, Arthur Simone, Aimee Bravo, Maren Lindow, James Palmer, David Wesley Cooper, Mark Vollmers.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “As a wise man once said: I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”


Although it takes 51 minutes for anything remotely horror-related to happen in this 79 minute film, once it gets going, it’s not half bad.

An art teacher sets his students a task to take one segment of a mannequin and decorate it however they like to meet up again and reassemble it, kinda like that game you used to play with the folded up piece of paper where you draw different sections of a person.

They congregate at a bar to describe what factors influenced their section and put the character – named Jigsaw – back together. With a buzzsaw for a hand, a shotgun on his arm, and a working camcorder over one eye, the mannequin has a Terminator-esque quality. We learn one girl is a battered wife, another chickened out on the suicide pact with her sister, and one guy is a self-confessed psycho.

jigsaw 2002

As they get drunk and prepare to ritually burn Jigsaw, he inexplicably comes to life and starts to cut-up his creators, taking an arm here, a leg there, etc. Assuming he’s going to make a companion for himself, the film never actually gets that far, ending abruptly with a shock, and leaving the fate of one student up in the air.

With a 3.5 rating on IMDb, I can see why this would fail to inspire much optimism, given that the horror segment of this horror film lasts only 24 minutes after a lot of talking and nothing is explained – it would’ve likely worked better as a segment in an anthology. Still, Jigsaw is kind of a creepy dude (echoing Morty, the wooden mannequin in The Fear to some degree) and there are a few good ideas at play here and a few interestingly drawn characters.

Rankfest: Child’s Play

The interesting thing about the Child’s Play/Bride of/Seed of/Curse of/Management Appraisal of/Grocery List of Chucky movies is that none of them are legitimately bad. Sure, some went for a very campy approach with in-jokes surely only Don Mancini and Jennifer Tilly were in on, but if they weren’t scary, they were at the very least funny.

Mancini’s unwavering commitment to the series also deserves a lot of respect. Most creators turned away from their projects when they didn’t get the critical acclaim they hungered for, but Mancini stayed with Chucky, ensuring that the continuity of the films has been maintained almost flawlessly.

How do they stack up?

7th best: Seed of Chucky (2004)

seed of chucky 2004

Probably waiting a bit too long to cash-in on the success of Bride, this fifth go-round was only a modest success, and represents the only strand in the canon to go unresolved in the form of Glen/Glenda, the offspring of Chucky and Tiffany, who travels to Hollywood in the hope of finding them on the set of Chucky Goes Psycho, starring Jennifer Tilly.

A huge amount of in-the-know jokes abound at the expense of horror, making the film a comedy first. That said, in this sense it at least succeeds in being an absolute riot, with some hilarious setups and cameos.

Best bit: Chucky runs Britney Spears off the road: “Oops! I did it again!”

*

6th: Cult of Chucky (2017)

cult of chucky 2017

The enthusiasm with which Curse was met didn’t quite carry over into the next straight-to-DVD/VOD feature, which reverted to the comedy>horror structure, but at least moves the story forward significantly by the end.

The concept of Charles Lee Ray’s spirit inhabiting several dolls at once ices the film with an amusing blood-red frosting, allowing for a veritable Doomsday Book of gags, but some gruesome demises too. Mancini’s ability to bring back in characters from previous installments must be pretty much unequalled in horror.

Best bit: A twisted revisit to the ceiling mirror slaying from Bride.

*

5th: Curse of Chucky (2013)

curse of chucky

I got to see the European premiere of this at FrightFest and it was definitely a crowd pleaser. An effort to take the concept back to its more sinister roots. Here, Chucky is delivered to the home of an old acquaintance and wreaks havoc during a wake.

The smart move here was keeping Chucky’s movements off camera for a good portion of the running time, rewinding things back to the is it/isn’t it questions posed by the original. It runs a little too long given the small cast and setting.

Best bit: “It’s a doll. What’s the worst that could happen?”

*

4th: Child’s Play 3 (1991)

child's play 3 1991

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, the saying goes. In the early 90s, various UK tabloid “news”papers decided to blame the murder of a toddler on a film his pair of 10-year-old killers supposedly watched (but it later turned out, didn’t), rather than look to greater problems in society, parenting, or the kind of right-wing bullshit they pedalled every day. They also took credit for the film being banned, which it never was.

Teenage Andy is packed off to a military academy just as Good Guy dolls are ready to go back into production. Chucky succeeds in mailing himself to the academy and the usual occurs. The setting is original and there are some good ideas, but Mancini later admitted he was forced to churn out a script he wasn’t altogether satisfied with.

Best bit: Garbage disposal demise.

*

3rd: The Original (1988)

child's play 1988

Third!? Yes. I’d already seen a couple of the sequels by the time this came around and I was slightly underwhelmed, expecting an overarching classic that the follow-ups were but poor imitations of. Hell, I saw Dolly Dearest before I saw this!

I guess like any first-in-a-series horror movie, there’s a restraint that is accompanied by the thicker depths of storytelling – the canvas needs to be established before we draw all over it. I just find Child’s Play a bit… inaccessible. Whereas, I can slot into any of the sequels at any given time, I feel I owe more to watching this one (and also the originals of any other given franchise).

*

2nd: Child’s Play 2 (1990)

child's play 2 1990

My first foray into Chucky-dom was this one, played repeatedly on cable back in the 90s, which is probably the most straight-up slasher of the lot. I can never remember if it’s supposed to pick up straight after the first one, or a year or two later, but Alex Vincent has, of course, sprouted.

Chucky rampages through various unfortunates in his bid to ‘hide his soul’ in Andy, and in doing so notches up some of the more memorable sequences of the franchise: The mean teacher beaten with a ruler, that guy from Ally McBeal asphyxiated, and the gloopy factory finale, where the doll just keeeeeeps on comin’ back.

*

1st: Bride of Chucky (1998)

bride of chucky 1998

The combination of depleting box office returns and the scandal around the third movie pretty much finished off Chucky as a horror force in the 90s, but then Scream came and tossed the salad, giving a series about a killer doll plenty of self-referential gags to chew on and spit out. Best idea? Give Chucky a pal.

Casting Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany was a masterstroke and once dolled, it seems strange to imagine the series without her and Dourif bouncing off one another. Adding in John Ritter as an overbearing patriarch also lends well to the comedic feel employed by Ronny Yu’s direction, which helped him land the Freddy vs Jason gig a few years later.

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